Friday 16 July 1999 0:20am
BT brings Netphones to the masses
BT has unveiled the Multiphone - a kiosk service which will provide Net access, email and videophone capabilities. The UK telco said it will install 1,000 of the devices in railway stations, airports and shopping centres across the UK.
The Multiphone will give users access to local information content, such as entertainment guides and area maps, much of which will be free. Web and email access will be charged at 10p per minute, with a minimum charge of £1. BT also plans to extend the service to offer videophone and print-out facilities.
Malcolm Newing, Director of BT Payphones, said: "The Multiphone is a truly innovative product that demonstrates BT's enthusiasm to open up the world of communication to the general public."
The phones, designed by King Products, rely solely on a touch-screen for input - a move which BT claimed will minimise the technology failures which have marred previous public multimedia kiosk projects, including its own.
Labour MP, Ken Livingstone, who launched the scheme, said the kiosks will help to reduce the divide between the information rich and the information poor by giving everyone access to the Web. "We are now living in a world where exclusion from information is virtually an exclusion from economic society," he said.
However, Livingstone said the real benefits would come when "prices will come down and distribution will widen".
Iain Stevenson, Internet working specialist at Ovum, questioned whether the Multiphone will really make a difference to those who can't get on the Net. "People who can't afford to buy a PC probably can't afford to use one of the kiosks at £1 every 10 minutes," he said.
Newsbit furnished by:
A: NetShift Software Ltd.
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